Saturday, March 17, 2007
March 17 was not the day St. Patrick was born but the day he died. Even though we don't know the date of his birth, most scholars believe the year was 385 AD and the year of his death was 461 AD.
St. Patrick was born in Wales, studied religion to become a priest and then went to Ireland to teach the people about God. There are many wonderful stories about St. Patrick, some true and some not true. The most famous legend is that he drove the snakes out of Ireland. This did not happen but the Irish will tell you that you cannot find a snake throughout the whole country of Ireland.
On St. Patrick's Day there are many different customs that people do. One of the most widely known customs is to wear green. One famous saying is that on St. Patrick's Day everybody is Irish.
Every year on March 17 more than 100 U.S. cities have a parade for this festive holiday. The largest parade is held in New York City. Another custom takes place in Chicago. The custom is dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started in 1962 when some city pollution control workers used dye to trace some illegal sewage discharge and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. On that year they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river. That much dye made the river green for a whole week. Today only 40 pounds are used so the river stays green for several hours.
Another custom is that people wear shamrocks on their shoulders to remember St. Patrick.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
'300' a visceral feast for the senses
By BRUCE KIRKLAND - Sun Media
Zack Snyder’s 300 is an ultra-modern movie about an ancient battle, a vanished culture and a rigorous code of conduct that only an insane man would adopt in contemporary times.
That violent intersection — of slick new digital technology and the elusive rites of antiquity — has resulted in the first unique cinematic experience of the year. 300 is a savage spectacle of scope and bravado.
Geared to adults and based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, it tells a mythological version of a true story.
In 480 B.C., 300 Spartan warriors marshalled at the Gates of Hell to defend their nearby city state from an invasion force of one million Persians.
Their strategy was brilliant and simple: Force the Persians into a narrow gorge between two cliffs, meaning the Spartans could not easily be dislodged, run over or surrounded. Of course, that also meant the defenders had to be fierce, disciplined, well-organized and each willing to submit to what they called “a beautiful death.”
Arguably, you could make the case that the Battle of Thermopylae, with Spartan King Leonidas aligned against Persian god-King Xerxes, changed the course of Western civilization.
But you are not thinking about that when bathed in blood and thrilling to the event. As a film, 300 is smashing entertainment more than it is accurate history. Prepare for an assault of violence, heroism, duplicity, action, surprising humour, sensuous interludes and startling moments of agonizing pathos.
In short, 300 provides the qualities that Rudolph Mate’s 1962 movie, The 300 Spartans, lacked when it also did battle at Thermopylae. That plodding sword-and-sandal epic, with Richard Egan as Leonidas, was wooden. It creaked and it groaned under the weight of pomposity.
Yet the movie inspired artist-writer Miller. Of course, he was only five years and impressionable. Years later, in 1998, he published his version as an adult comic book. Now, after a seven-year production ordeal typical of projects that do not hew to Hollywood formula, it is a film by co-writer (with Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon) and director Zack Snyder.
The technical side is dazzling, especially for a film with a relatively modest $63-million budget that was shot in Montreal to take advantage of tax credits and boutique-shop special effects houses.
Smart decision. Except for one scene, the enterprise was executed on sound stages. Like the ground-breaking Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, all the environments — indoors and out — were created through digital diddling. The artistry is staggeringly beautiful, except for the cheesy attempt to show a storm swamping the Persian navy. But, with scenery and weather, rampaging rhinos, bellowing elephants, bizarro mutants, hordes of archers, masses of both Spartans and Persians both alive and dead, and the gigantic persona of Xerces, the special effects are marvellous.
This technique also allowed freedom to Snyder (known for his deliciously diabolical re-make of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead) to play with tone, mood and stylistic flourishes. Like Miller’s Sin City, which morphed into Robert Rodriguez’s noir film, 300 is a surreal film dreamscape with live action humans at its core.
They are well cast, starting with Gerard Butler as Leonidas. Like all the main players, he physically trained into a magnificent human warrior machine.
You haven’t seen this many buff bodies on one screen, maybe ever (women audibly gasp as mostly naked men with washboard tummies march off to war — and it’s also homoerotic).
There is also eye candy for the straight guys in the audience: Lena Headey as Spartan Queen Gorgo (some viewers may want to be Gorgonized, even at the risk of impalment on a Spartan sword).
Others in key roles include Rodrigo Santoro (from Lost) as the exotic Xerxes and David Wenham (from The Lord of the Rings) who plays Dilios, a warrior and the storyteller-narrator.
This clever twist allows the entire saga to be given a Spartan propaganda spin.
Real war is hell, but this version is heaven, in a mythological heroic sense. It is an experience, not literal history.
(This film is rated 18-A)
'300' Flick Is Ready-Made for the Right-Wing Crowd
By Steve Burgess, The Tyee. Posted March 10, 2007.
If new acquaintance tells you that their favorite movie is 300, back away slowly -- they probably kills cats for fun.
What's your favourite movie?
Someday soon, you may ask a new acquaintance that question, and just maybe -- because it takes all kinds -- your new friend will reply, "My favourite movie is 300."
If this happens, back away slowly. Your new friend probably kills cats for fun. Worse -- your new friend may be George W. Bush. Director Zack Snyder's new dramatization of the epic Spartan stand at Thermopylae will probably go down real well at the White House, and wherever disturbed young people massacre hundreds in violent video games. Others should exercise discretion.
This is a historical epic, but its real history is not so much ancient Greek as recent comic book. 300 is another film taken from the work of graphic novel auteur Frank Miller, following very much in the CGI tradition of last year's Miller-inspired Sin City. Nothing in 300 is natural -- not a ray of honest sunlight falls on a single frame of the movie. Like Sin City and the execrable Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, 300 was filmed entirely in front of blue screens and subsequently built around the actors digitally.
It's certainly better than Sky Captain, visually at least. 300 has an undeniable beauty, a burnished look intended to evoke the mythic. Think of the dream scenes in Gladiator and imagine a whole movie of that. Don't imagine much else, because you'll be disappointed.
Someday, somebody is going to make one of these comic book movies that isn't quite so depressingly comic book. Not this time. 300 is an adolescent wet dream to its very core, a homoerotic paean to half-naked Greeks and their bloody, thrusting swords. And to make all the Chippendales-style posing more palatable for the young straight male target audience, there's a little bit of rough doggie-style hetero sex too.
The plot -- don't blink now -- is this: 300 brave Spartans, led by the heroic Leonidas (Gerard Butler), guard a pass against the Persian hordes commanded by King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). There's a small bit of politics thrown in, and the aforementioned boinking (featuring Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo). But it's mostly just the glorious, sexual thrill of slow-motion violence and orgasmic geysers of spurting blood. Really. Such unabashed tributes to slaughter are usually delivered with a wink in slasher films, but 300 does not know how to wink. It is deadly serious in the way that so often provokes giggles.
There's virtually no development of the Persian side, almost no real sense of who they are and why they are so scary -- except that there's a whole lot of them, and their leader Xerxes is seven feet tall, like Darth Vader and with pretty much the same voice. When it finally arrives, the big sacrificial climax doesn't even make a lot of sense. It's just heroic.
Regardless, 300 will likely be a masturbatory experience for the Ann Coulter crowd. Cruel, militaristic Sparta is the ideal; weak, artsy Athens is mocked, particularly in a scene where Athenian soldiers are revealed to be potters, sculptors, poets. Brave men who leave what they love to defend their country? Bah! Weaklings, according to this flick. As a tribute to a particular world view, 300 could play on a double bill with Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will.
And no doubt it will be screened at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. President Bush will certainly relish a film in which King Leonidas tries, and fails, to get authorization from Sparta's governing council for an attack against the forces of Persia, a.k.a. modern-day Iran. Leonidas goes ahead anyway. History calls him a hero. So much for congressional funding.
There's even evidence that the film consciously grasps at this clash-of-civilizations message. "Today we will rid the world of mysticism and tyranny," shouts a Greek soldier, leading a charge against the Persians moments after we have seen an image of dead Spartans in Christ-like poses.
Most of the bloodthirsty teens in the audience won't care about that stuff, of course. But Dick Cheney will cream himself. I guess Dick can use a little diversion. He's had a rough year.
Three men who spent years in jail after being wrongly convicted of murder will have to pay for their prison board and lodgings, Law Lords have ruled.
Brothers Vincent and Michael Hickey of Birmingham, spent 18 years in jail for paperboy Carl Bridgewater's murder.
Michael O'Brien from Cardiff spent 11 years in jail for a separate murder.
The three were deducted money from their compensation for what lawyers called "living expenses" but what the court agreed was for life necessities.
Judges ruled by a four to one majority that they must pay back 25% of their compensation.
'Necessities of life'
The three men had appealed against an earlier Court of Appeal ruling the Independent Assessor was entitled to deduct their compensation to reflect the necessities of life which they would have to buy from wages if they were free.
Their lawyers had argued it was wrong to expect people wrongly imprisoned to pay for what is effectively their "board and lodgings".
Vincent Hickey, 49, and Michael Hickey, 42, of Birmingham, were jailed in 1979 over Carl's murder at Yew Tree Farm, near Stourbridge.
They had their convictions quashed at the Court of Appeal in 1997.
Michael Hickey was awarded £990,000 in compensation and Vincent Hickey £506,220, subject to the deductions.
Michael O'Brien spent 11 years in prison after being wrongly convicted in 1988 of the murder of a Cardiff newsagent.
He was awarded £670,000 subject to similar deductions.
London Firefighter Docked Wages After Taking Leave to Donate Bone Marrow to Cancer Victim
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
A firefighter who took time off to donate bone marrow to a teenage girl dying of cancer was docked a week's worth of wages, a London paper reported.
After learning he was a match for a teenage girl who suffered from leukemia, Mark McCracken, 43, applied for special leave. McCracken, his colleagues and the firefighter's union were outraged when they heard the selfless firefighter would not be given pay while on leave, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.
"It is ironic that a large part of our job is about saving lives and the lad has saved someone's life and he is being punished," Steve Harman, a member of the firefighter's union, told the Daily Mail.
The national bone marrow register to treat leukaemia reimbursed Mark for his lost wages.
Monday, March 12, 2007
By ERIC HORNG
March 10, 2007 — It's how corporate America communicates.
Scheduling a meeting? Send an e-mail. Need that report right away? Send an e-mail. Are there serious issues in the department? Nothing a chain of e-mails can't solve.
The volume of e-mails has exploded in recent years with over 170 billion now being sent daily around the globe, according to technology market researcher Radacati Group. That's two million every second.
But many in business now worry this tool for easy communication is actually making it harder to communicate.
"Some [e-mails] are very valuable, and some of them are just an excuse not to communicate or to protect myself from something that's going on," said Jay Ellison, executive vice president at Chicago-based U.S. Cellular.
Two and a half years ago, Ellison was receiving an average of 200 e-mails a day, many of which went unopened. After getting cyber-indigestion, he sent out a memo to his 5,500 subordinates.
"I'm announcing a ban on e-mail every Friday," Ellison's memo read. "Get out to meet your teams face-to-face. Pick up the phone and give someone a call. … I look forward to not hearing from any of you, but stop by as often as you like."
The no-e-mail-Friday idea landed with a thud.
"Jay's insane. He's crazy," said marketing director Kathy Volpi, recalling the initial impression she and others had. "Employees would queue up their e-mails, and then at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, they'd let them fly."
Eventually, the policy won over staff members. Forced to use the phone, employee John Coyle learned that a co-worker who he thought was across the country was, in fact, across the hall.
"I asked him where he was and he said I'm on the fourth floor, and I said, 'Well so am I,'" said Coyle. "We now have a working relationship that is deeper than he's the guy that provides reports."
Public affairs manager Tyler Caroll, because of her gender-neutral name, used to get e-mails addressing her as a "he" or "Mr." Phone calls on a no-e-mail-Friday changed all that.
"People were really surprised that they had a woman's voice at the other end of the line instead of a man's," said Carroll with a laugh.
U.S. Cellular isn't the only company curbing e-mail. At PBD Worldwide Fulfillment Services, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based outsourcing company, e-mail-free-Fridays have changed habits throughout the week — e-mail volume is down a whopping 75 percent — and that's helped the bottom line.
"What I think it's done is make us more efficient, and it's made us listen to our customers better," said PBD vice president Lisa Williams.
The trend is seen as a backlash against a corporate "crackberry" culture of impersonal communications. Last August, 400 Radio Shack employees received their pink slips electronically. In 2002, now-defunct accounting firm Arthur Anderson dropped the e-mail hatchet as well.
"I think it's been abused over the years," said Ellison. "We tend to use e-mail as a kind of a tool to hide behind issues versus getting up and talking to people."
In addition to being impersonal and tedious, studies show e-mail can also be confusing and lead to misunderstandings in the workplace, particularly with bosses.
"As a medium, it's inherently ambiguous," said behavioral science professor Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. "There's not as much information conveyed. The pitch of your voice, the speed with which you say something, the emotional tone that's carried in your voice isn't there."
At U.S. Cellular, no-e-mail-Fridays have been such a success that the company recently instituted a new policy aimed at another corporate vice: no-meetings-Friday.
A 57-year-old Swiss man has pleaded guilty in a court in Thailand to charges of insulting the king.
Oliver Jufer was arrested last December after drunkenly spray-painting several portraits of the monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
In court, Jufer pleaded guilty to five charges under Thailand's draconian lese majeste law.
He is due to be sentenced later this month, and the maximum penalty he could face is 75 years in jail.
Jufer's lawyer said the minimum sentence he faced was seven-and-a-half years.
Police reports said Jufer was drunk when the portraits were defaced on 5 December, which as the day of the King's birthday is a national holiday.
Jufer, who has lived in Thailand for more than 10 years, was recorded on surveillance cameras defacing the portraits.
The BBC's Jonathan Head, who was outside the court in the northern city of Chiang Mai, says the case throws a rare spotlight on the strict lese-majeste laws in Thailand forbidding any criticism of the monarchy.
At one point the prosecutor tried to get the media to leave, saying the case had been postponed.
"We don't want the Thai people to know about this case," he said.
The image of the monarchy is very carefully managed, with local media only allowed to lavish praise on the king, our correspondent says.
The popular reverence for him is genuine, but the draconian laws deter most Thais from even discussing the monarchy.
The king himself appeared to question this in a recent speech when he said it was wrong to put him above criticism.
"I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know," he said. "If you say the king cannot be criticised, it means that the king is not human."
But without any public debate there seems no possibility of amending the law, which allows any Thai citizen to bring a charge against anyone else for insulting the king.A handful of other foreigners have faced similar charges in the past. Most have eventually been allowed to leave the country.
By Mary Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com
Perhaps the most persistent -- and often most annoying -- question college students hear throughout their years (second only to "What's your major?") is "So what are you going to do with your major?"
The truth, for many of them, is that they simply don't know. And that is totally OK.
While choosing a major will help you prepare for a career in a specific field, it can also provide a solid basis for pursuing a career in a seemingly dissimilar field. For example, history majors can go into government, journalism or even museum work, and it's not unusual for theater majors to work in business.
Before you think about what you're going to do with your major, find out what you can you do with your major.
So daddy wasn't thrilled when you announced that you were switching from pre-med to art history, eh? "At least I'll be rich in spirit," you offer as the smallest hints of tears replace the dollar signs in his eyes.
But art majors aren't necessarily destined to be starving artists. You can go into any number of fields, ranging from commercial art, media and photography to art therapy. If you've still got a place in your heart for scrubs, supplement your studies with psychology or counseling courses to pursue art therapy. If commercial art appeals to you, intern with a photographer, magazine or other media outlet and compile a portfolio as you go along. The same goes for studio art, wherein interning or volunteering for a museum will help you see the administrative side of this field.
Lest you shy away from concentrating on the biological sciences (biology, microbiology, zoology, etc.) because you don't want to go to grad school, know that there are plenty of career options for those with bachelor's degrees in biology. Not only does an undergraduate degree prepare you for a career in the rapidly-growing healthcare industry, it also qualifies you to work as a laboratory assistant, technician, technologist or research assistant.
Should you feel the need to break out of the lab, you could also do non-technical work like writing, illustration, sales, photography and legislation by signing up for relevant electives, doing part-time work or interning.
Yet another major that seems to ensure that, unless you have a graduate degree, you'll be reduced to spouting Freud to the patrons you serve at the local café after graduation.
Not so. Psychology provides a strong liberal arts background, allowing graduates to pursue work in several fields like public relations, retail management, sales, market research, advertising and education. Again, it's important to pursue outside interests in different fields, both to further your work experience and make contacts.
Majoring in English isn't just for future teachers anymore. Those with a background in English have a variety of options when it comes to choosing their fields of work, including law, public relations, advertising, publishing and well, okay, teaching. English majors looking to work in law should obtain summer work at law firms and tweak their speech and debate skills. Picking up an LSAT prep book probably wouldn't hurt, either.
Yes, you've taught all of your friends dirty words in three different languages, but what else can you do? Well, a lot, actually.
For one thing, the government (including the FBI, CIA, Customs Service and the Library of Congress) is one of the largest employers of people with foreign language skills. Foreign language majors can also go into arts and entertainment by working at museums, book publishers and film companies, or into commerce and work at American firms abroad or international firms in the U.S.
Travel, tourism, service and education are also popular industries for foreign language graduates. Try to become as accustomed to the culture of the language(s) you're studying as possible, in any way possible, from studying or working abroad to renting foreign language movies and books.
So you want to go into politics, but you're neither an Austrian bodybuilder/movie star nor a former professional wrestler... that's probably okay. In fact, some might say a more typical approach would be to supplement that political science major with participation in student government, a model United Nations or local political campaigns if they hope to go into government, law or politics.
Other career options include journalism, non-profit work, business, broadcasting or education. A degree in political science can also be good preparation for post-graduate studies in psychology, law and business.
Whatever your major, keep your options open by volunteering, interning, doing part-time work or taking classes in other areas that interest you. Involve yourself in community events and get to know local professionals who can give you contacts, advice and references.
And the next time someone hassles you about what you're going to do with your major, resist the urge to tell that person where you'd like to stick it; instead, say with every confidence that you have a variety of options to pursue, but you don't want to narrow them down quite yet.
Copyright 2007 CareerBuilder.com. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
POSTED: 8:00 am MST March 10, 2007
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Toxicology results for drugs haven't been released , but police believe a man who called 911 and taunted police for about three hours Friday was "obviously high on something."
Alexander Craig, 21, was being held on suspicion of vehicular eluding, DUI and resisting arrest after making about 10 calls between 8:30 and 11 p.m. Thursday and leading police on a chase.
"He called 911 and said, 'I'm hammered ... come get me,"' said Sgt. Rob Kelley.
He described his car, dropped clues of where he was and even gave his name.
About 20 officers were involved in the search, but could find Craig.
"He said we need to try harder to find him. He said he couldn't believe he hasn't been caught yet," Kelley said.
After nearly two hours, Craig found them. He pulled up in front of squad cars and drove off, running red lights, driving down the wrong side of the street and jumping medians. He was caught when his car, leaking fluids, broke down and police used a stun gun on him.
Intoxicated drivers usually try to stay under the radar, Kelley said.
"For somebody to call us -- that's a first in 20 years I'm aware of," he said.
Residents will move ahead 2 hours to EDT
By Tom Coyne
FRANCESVILLE, Ind. -- The church service at First Baptist Church here will start at the same time as always Sunday -- yet two hours earlier than it has for the past year.
Confused? Welcome to Pulaski County, where the clock on the county courthouse in Winamac reads 10:15 a.m. and the digital clock a half-mile away outside First Federal Savings Bank reads 11:15 a.m., and everyone knows neither is wrong.
"Whenever I make an appointment I say, 'It's 11:45 here; what time is it there?"' said Sheila Garling, owner of Gear Up Sports & Apparel in Winamac, who says the time differences are confusing.
Folks in this county about 100 miles north of Indianapolis have been caught in a time warp since Indiana lawmakers voted in 2005 to begin observing statewide daylight-saving time for the first time in 30 years. But thanks to a time-zone reversal by the U.S. Department of Transportation and Sunday's arrival of daylight-saving time, they hope the confusion will finally clear.
While most U.S. clocks spring forward one hour Sunday, Pulaski County will move the courthouse clock ahead two hours. That will move the county from Central time to Eastern Daylight.
Pulaski was one of 19 Indiana counties that sought to switch time zones after lawmakers approved statewide daylight time. The U.S. Department of Transportation initially recommended that Pulaski and several surrounding counties remain in the Eastern time zone. But it ultimately put Pulaski and neighboring Starke County in the Central time zone and most other nearby counties in Eastern.
Pulaski County officials vowed to defy the federal government and move to Eastern time on their own. They changed their minds when government lawyers threatened to sue. Instead, they filed a formal request in June 2006 to switch back to Eastern.
In the meantime, the county's biggest school district decided to observe Eastern time to minimize confusion. The district has pupils who live in an Eastern time county, and it shares programs with an Eastern time district.
Many residents and businesses also decided to stay on Eastern. County officials switched the work hours for most county employees from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST to 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Central time -- making the switch in time zones a change in name only for some.
"That was confusing in itself, but people lived through it," County Commissioner Michael Tiede said.
Others, however, decided to stay put.
"We just decided if that was the official time, we'd abide by it," said Dennis Gutwein, the pastor at First Baptist, who kept the clocks at the church and his insurance business in Francesville on Central time.
Some residents have found it simpler to refer to fast time or slow time when making plans.
"They usually don't say Eastern or Central time, because then you have people who are really particular who will say, 'Is it Eastern Standard Time or Eastern Daylight Time?' " Tiede said. "But if you go fast or slow, you just know it's an hour difference."
Federal officials in February approved Pulaski County's request to return to Eastern. But Gutwein still worries that the confusion will get worse Sunday when the clocks move forward. Some people might show up for Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. EDT, others at 9:30 a.m. EST and others at 9:30 a.m. CST, he said.
Parishioner Lori Carlson won't take any chances before heading to Sunday's service.
"I'll have to call," she said.
2 SETS OF CLOCKS
Time warp: Pulaski County in Northwestern Indiana has been in a time warp since the U.S. Department of Transportation voted to keep it in the Central time zone but move most of its neighbors to Eastern.
Pick your zone: Schools and many businesses opted to stay with Eastern to stay in sync with neighboring counties, but others observe Central time, making the question, "What time is it there?" a familiar one.
The solution: The Department of Transportation approved the county's request to return to Eastern time, and on Sunday, Pulaski officially will move its clocks forward two hours to observe daylight-saving time in its new time zone.
HIPPO & THIGH DIET
NINE women are giving themselves a constant reminder of how much weight they have lost... by adopting a baby hippo.
The dieters - who have shed more than 35 stone since joining Slimming World - are now "mum" to Venus, a a young pygmy hippo at Colchester Zoo, Essex.
Barbara Fisher of Slimming World, said: "We asked the zoo to find an animal that weighed the same we'd lost - and they came up with Venus, who is perfect."
A zoo spokesman for said: "People adopt our animals for all sorts of reasons, but this is the strangest yet."